March 08, 2019

_DZB1832.jpgLeslie Vinjamuri
Head of the US and the Americas Programme, and Dean of the Academy for Leadership in International Affairs, the Chatham House, the UK

How was the Tokyo conference?

It was an extraordinary conference, with so many people from all over the world from the leading think tanks, and extraordinary to discuss the future of the liberal international order here in Japan. Japan is such an important stakeholder in the liberal international order, and the think tank you run has been really tremendous as a visionary, to be able to have hundreds of people attend on a Sunday, because of the concern for the future of globalism and for internationalism is clearly very important.

Currently, the two major superpowers, the U.S and China, are trying to govern the world by making deals with one another. We feel that states are being prioritized over citizens, and in such a world, what do you think the role of a think tank should be?

I think think tanks are very important today - probably more important than they've ever been - because many of the people who would normally be in government, certainly in the United States, are reluctant. They don't think that is honest that the intention of the United States are where they should be when it comes to the internationalism, to the future. So, they come to the think tanks to keep that conversation honest, to keep it vigorous, to keep it alive, to bring more people into the discussion and try to influence elites in the United States, China, Japan, Europe and with American's partners. The think tank becomes a very important space for having very intelligent, rigorous discussion that is based on principals but is evidence-based, collaborative, and really has a strong sense of what's at stake. And has that historical perspective that it can really bring to bear on the most important policy debates that we have right now.

I think the situation in Japan now is comparable to that of the U.K. during the Cold War, in that we are trying to maintain a balance between two major powers. For the U.K., it was the U.S. and the Soviet Union, while for Japan, it is the U.S. and China.

It is important for smaller but very influential liberal countries with deep expertise, strong economies, and strong democracy but that are not the main players in the conflict... it is very important that the conversation happens in those countries. That they play a brokerage role. That they can begin to influence and persuade, and really mobilize and catalyze important conversations. So, I do think the British and the Japanese are very important players in this, and we should not lose that role.

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